Bill Hartford was somewhat of a young rebel racing his 1966 Chevy 2 late at night on Latimer Road in Langley.
Today, he’s the 2013 Super Pro drag racing champion at Thunder Mountain just east of Kelowna. He won the crown last month.
“I was a street racer and I lost my licence when I was a teenager,” smiles Hartford, who works on the road crew for the municipality of Coldstream. “I had 27 points and it got expensive.”
He’s 48 now, drives the speed limit around town in a Dodge diesel pick-up, and has built 27 cars and trucks since he was 14. The auto junkie also won the Super Pro class at the oldtime drags at Nl’Axkapxm Eagle Motorplex in Ashcroft earlier this season.
“I’ve been on the small circuit from Mission (Raceway) to Kelowna the last two years and I’ve had 148 passes on my yellow 1972 Buick Skylark GS I bought last year. The car has a history of drag racing from day one in Mission and Ashcroft where it ran 12.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Today, it runs low 11 seconds with a very strong 464 (cubic inch) putting out 490 horse power and 520-foot pounds torque, and it only weights 2,800 pounds.
“It’s a real consistent car, very reliable. It’s not just turn the key and go. It takes driver’s skills.”
Hartford also owns a ‘72 black Buick Pro Street car weighing 3,800 pounds. That car runs 7.35 seconds at 93.1 miles per hour at sea level at Thunder Mountain and 11.62 seconds at 119.45 mph at Achcroft’s quarter-mile track which is at 2,200 feet.
“The most interesting thing about drag racing is the skill of the sport,” said Hartford. “Judging the elevation, air density, humidity, temperature and barometer, and knowing your car and other competitors. Cutting a good light and not breaking out makes a great combination for a win.”
Hartford took automotive at D.W. Poppy high school and spent countless hours in the machine shop. He has a big shop or “man cave” at his house for his hot rod hobby.
A regular season sees him race seven times at Thunder Mountain, four in Mission and five in Ashcroft.
“It’s a huge adrenaline rush. The first time you are so nervous for your first hit. Then you can’t wait for the next time. Thunder Mountain offers Friday night instant green racing to anyone with an insured vehicle and valid driver’s licence and a helmet. Most people, young and old, who try it for the first time, get hooked. It is a very safe sport and the volunteer staff is always there to help you. No one goes home broken down.”
Hartford budgets for $2,000 fuel, tires and track fees each season. Ashcroft drags were huge in the 1970s and are slowly making a comeback.
“I raced a guy this year who was 69 and there is a lady, 79, who is really impressive.”
He won the Super Pro points title with 188, edging Norm Wright of Kelowna (168).
With no pit crew required, Hartford praises sponsors Tamara Cinnamon and staff at the Sutton Realty office, Tim Deplonty at Aamco Transmissions and Andy Kettles and staff at Hilltop Tirecraft.
He also gives props to friends Dave Desnoyer from Dave’s Mobile Mechanic, Wes Thomas, Mark Tompson, Luke Staber, and most importantly, his patient wife Mary, who’s not a car buff. You can catch Hartford’s races on YouTube.